My dearest friends, there are famous Zulu sayings we use for circumstances such as these: “ukuhamba ukubona futhi kuzala induna.” Asitolikwake bantakwethu!
I laugh at myself for all the angry emails I wrote to City Property when we spent 8 months in 2017 without a lift and that time I was renting a flat on the 3rd floor.
When I bought my own flat, the building was supposedly managed by Trafalgar at a very steep price. My levies were about R5000 per month, including a double garage and CSOS contribution (yes on top of the bond and utilities).The lift never worked normally for a period longer than 7 consecutive days. It was forever broken like this (picture above) and Trafalgar didn’t even care to reply on queries about the lift.
I began to notice a pattern. When a flat owned by a white person was getting a new tenant, the lift would be fixed but it would break down as soon as moving was done.
The broken lights on corridors and stairs, broken windows, a dripping of sewage at the main entrance foyer, uncollected trash, unmanned mailbox, general dirt and grime in shared areas had my blood boiling for the entire time I was living there. I was accustomed to City Property standards.
The fire escape stairs was my preferred route to and from my spectacular penthouse flat on the 7th floor. I had to get over my fear of heights quickly. I dreamt of installing a private elevator (if I were to win the lottery) like those you see in Clifton Beach, much to the disgust of my former colleague Maggie. “Why would you continue to live there if you had millions of Rands???” she asked, perplexed.
Community. The flat had 5 bedrooms and the tenants I ended up with were sweethearts. Elizabeth, Itu, Ntlantla, Msira, Meneer and Yellowbone were good kids. I knew that I had people around me that I could talk to. That was very important, considering that my work life was hellish during those times.
My desperation led me to the CSOS (Community Schemes Ombud Services). It’s a scam! You pay for the services and if your body corporate doesn’t cooperate, you get told that the time allocated to your case is finished, you need to pay some more to extend it.
I quickly realized that a good life is very hard to attain as a black person in South Africa. You end up having to scream & fight, to get the most basic of things. Renting seemed a much cheaper and stress-free option. Our complacency is what makes companies like Trafalgar get away with charging exorbitant levies for property management but not lifting a finger to do any managing of any kind. Their condescension makes it worse. When a building is occupied by over two hundred people and only one person is demanding services, it appears as though the odd one out is just being uppity for no reason.
If I am paying 30k a year in levies, there better be no overflowing bins on the corridors. There better be a security guard 24/7 guarding the property and ensuring access control.